Longterm development started! - Taking Stock in Poland
If you think about winter sports and Poland, the first two athletes to come to mind probably are Adam Malysz and Justyna Kowalczyk who have made ski jumping and cross country skiing immensely popular in their home country. When it comes to actually combining these two sports, the situation presents itself in a slightly different light: in the past season, no Polish athlete has been regularly taking part in the Nordic Combined World Cup at all. New Polish head coach Jan Klimko has set out to change this in the long run. High time to take a closer look and take stock in Poland!
Jan Klimko, a former Nordic Combined athlete from Czechoslovakia, has been asked to coach in Poland six years ago, starting with cross-country athletes. A year later, he took over the Polish junior national team, another year later switching to senior national team coach. After last season, the Czech was asked to take over the Nordic Combned team as head coach. "The results of the team were not satisfactory and the change was needed. Last time I was involved with Nordic Combined was in 1995 in the World Championships in Thunder Bay with Slovak national team. So taking this position was a challenge for me as well", Klimko explains.
"Many years of hard training ahead"
But making the best of a difficult situation, the longterm goals are optimistically set towards good performances in the most important competitions of the discipline: "My goal is to build a solid team that can fight for points in the World Cup, World Championships and Olympic Games. Our team consists of very young guys who have many years of hard training ahead of them. But I believe we can achieve our goals."
Klimko can rely on the support of three other people in his coaching team: his assistant coach Jakub Michalczuk with whom he also shares the administrative work and who has been in charge of the ski jumping training as Klimko hasn't worked in this area lately. There also is a service man to take care of all the equipment and last but not least a team physio who is in charge of the health aspects like proper intake of sport and health supplements, stretching and, of course, massages.
Young but ambitious team
With this team, Klimko currently takes care of eight athletes who he has high hopes for: "It is a young team and some of the boys are without any international experience. But they are very ambitious. They are strong jumpers. Among the best ones are Adam Cieslar and Pawel Slowiok, but we work well as a team and the results of it are starting to show." Another thing that works well in Poland is the cooperation with the sport schools in Zakopane and Szczyrk where Nordic Combined juniors have good conditions to grow, especially in regards to the jumping part. There are also other club recruiting new talent for Nordic Combined, though ski jumping is still much in the lead.
Similar to the situation in Slovenia, training for cross-country, though, can also cause problems in Poland: "I wish there were better conditions for rollerskiing, all the training is done on public roads where the traffic can get quite heavy", Jan Klimko worries for the safety of his athletes.
Asked after the rather extraordinary happenings around the Czech championships in summer where Polish youngster Kristian Gryczuk beat experienced athletes like Miroslav Dvorak and Ales Vodsedalek, Klimko answers: "Kristian is a talented racer and he has improved a lot over the summer, especially in jumping. He trains alone together with his coach. He did several good races this summer. My view is that the best athletes should represent Poland regardless if they are part of the national team or not. If he shows similar results also in the winter, the doors into the national team will definitely be open for him."
Junior World Championships as the main goal for the season
After all training camps in summer did take place as planned and even the traffic situation did not stop the efforts on the cross-country part, head coach Klimko is satisfied with the intermediate results. For next season, the Polish focus will be set to the Continental Cup to take the necessary points so that his young team can also start in the World Cup in the future. "Since our team consists of 5 juniors and 3 seniors, the main goal of the season will be the Junior World Championships in Liberec."
A success there would definitely help out Klimko's team as Nordic Combined is a fairly unknown sport. For a big, winter sports-crazy country like Poland, having 32 athletes racing in the Nordic Combined competitions in summer is a comparatively low number. Still, Klimko stays positive: "But we we are happy the interest in Nordic Combined is going up. When I think back to 1980, we were only seven Nordic Combined athletes left in Czechoslovakia and we did not give up. We trained hard and achieved results that motivated the upcoming generation and recruitment went up. I hope the same will happen in Poland as well."